The Republic of China not only brought a new regime but also a new culture. This new culture spurred a growing trend that was anti-tradition, anti-Confucianism and anti-classical Chinese language. It stood in opposition to established culture and gradually evolved into a movement towards cultural-intellectual and literary reform known as the New Culture Movement (新文化運動). The beginning of the New Culture Movement was marked by the debut of Youth Magazine (青年雜誌), a Shanghai-based journal edited by Chen Duxiu (陳獨秀) on September 15, 1915. The journal moved office to Beijing the following year and was renamed New Youth (新青年). The New Culture Movement itself was pioneered by a number of intellectuals who had been exposed to new ideas through studying abroad, like Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao (李大釗), Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培), Hu Shi (胡適, also known as Hu Shih), Lu Xun (魯迅), Qian Xuantong (錢玄同) and Liu Ban’nong (劉半農). New Youth became the group’s main forum. There, Chen Duxiu rallied supporters under the twin banners of democracy and science (which were nicknamed Mr D and Mr S respectively). From October 1917 onwards, the journal shifted its focus to the October Revolution in Russia, and Marxism. By promoting a new mindset, the New Culture Movement laid the cultural groundwork for the subsequent May Fourth Movement (五四運動) demonstrating the mutual support between the two movements. Later, Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao and Hu Shi had a falling out due to different political views. In June 1923, New Youth shifted to a quarterly schedule and became the official key theoretical text of the Chinese Communist Party. This largely marked the end of the New Culture Movement.
Beijing 1915 - Corner tower of the Forbidden City (故宮); Western-style buildings lined Middle Sichuan Road (四川中路) in Shanghai in a photograph taken around 1915. At that time, Beijing was the capital of the Republic of China and Shanghai was an international trading port. Having overthrown China’s monarchy, the young Republic was at the crossroads where traditional and modern cultures were set to collide.
On September 15, 1915, Chen Duxiu founded Youth Magazine in Shanghai. The photo on the left shows volume one, issue one - the debut issue. From volume two, issue one onwards, the magazine was renamed New Youth and moved office to Beijing shortly afterwards. The newly founded magazine, with its mission of spreading new ideas and promoting a new culture, heralded the New Culture Movement.
Chen Duxiu and his desk while in Beijing. The New Youth journal founded by Chen Duxiu was the leading publication of the New Culture Movement, and he himself also became a key leader of the movement.
Hu Shi, another standard-bearer of the New Culture Movement, and his former residence.
Li Dazhao and his former residence. Li Dazhao was a writer and editor of the New Youth journal who strongly advocated a new culture. Later, he became an active proponent of Marxism and the October Revolution in Russia.
A statue of Lu Xun and Sanwei Study (三味書屋), where he was educated from the age of 12 to 17. A contributor to New Youth, Lu Xun published Diary of a Madman in the journal in 1918. As China’s first short story that utilized both vernacular Chinese and a modern narration style, its tremendous influence continues to this day.
From left: Qian Xuantong and Liu Ban’nong. Both were editors and writers of the New Youth journal and trailblazers of the New Culture Movement.
Cai Yuanpei and his certificate of appointment as the president of Peking University (北京大學). In December 1916, President Li Yuanhong (黎元洪) signed the certificate to appoint Cai Yuanpei as president of Peking University. His assumption of office in January of the following year spelled a new era for Peking University.
A group photo featuring the second cohort of philosophy major graduates and their instructors from Peking University’s School of Liberal Arts, taken in front of the office at Peking University. In the front row, the fifth and sixth figures from the left are Cai Yuanpei and Chen Duxiu respectively; the seventh figure from the left is Liang Shuming (梁漱溟), a representative figure of new Confucian thought in the early modern era. Under Cai Yuanpei’s leadership, Peking University became a free and liberal forum where traditional and modern ways coexisted. It was as if the university had decided to show China’s education system an example of reform done right.
The Red Building (紅樓) of Peking University, built in August 1918, stood witness to the New Culture Movement and the 1919 May Fourth Movement.
Source of most photos used in this feature piece: Fotoe (picture 1), Visual China Group (pictures 2-10).